Aug 22, 2018 Written by: Shawn_Sanders

The ROG Swift PG27UQ packs 144Hz 4K and G-Sync HDR into the gaming monitor of your dreams

Articles: Hands On Monitors
Article Tags: Hands On

Ultra HD monitors with HDR have been available in the wild for a while now, but they've mostly been geared towards content creation. Due to their 60Hz maximum refresh rate, few of these displays have claimed the hearts of hardcore gamers, who have been eagerly awaiting a monitor that can check all three must-have boxes: high refresh, 4K UHD, and HDR.

Ultra HD 4K is considered the holy grail of resolutions for gaming. The added pixel density creates more detailed and convincing scenes that plunge the player deeper into the game's world. High Dynamic Range, commonly referred to as HDR, boosts image quality tremendously with richer colors, deeper blacks, and more intense whites in supported games and applications. Finally, high refresh rates let you see more frames per second and are crucial for a silky smooth motion and animation. The ROG Swift PG27UQ juggles all three like a champ, making it the perfect window for a vivid and immersive gaming experience in a variety of games.

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The PG27UQ represents the formidable convergence of top shelf features that we've all been waiting for, and I scooped this one up to test performance and visual quality as soon as it landed in the office. The 4K native resolution, HDR support, and 144Hz refresh rate were all put through their paces with a variety of games and movies.

Why we HDR

Before we delve into the testing, let's talk a little more about HDR and what it does. HDR expands the contrast range and offers overall improvements for darks and whites beyond the capabilities of typical SDR. Color and brightness enhancements work in tandem to greatly improve image quality, too. In fact, the difference in brightness compared to conventional monitors is one of the first things you will notice when you fire up the PG27UQ. The blacklight utilizes local dimming across 384 zones and features 1000 cd/m2 of peak brightness compared to 300 cd/m2 for a typical SDR display. The zones are dynamically lit where needed to eliminate unnecessary blooming and create more natural lighting. This also assists in producing deeper blacks and adds depth to shadows and darker areas. It's key to making the PG27UQ's 50,000:1 contrast ratio possible.

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You also get far more colors for all on-screen images. The PG27UQ is capable of supporting true 10-bit color with a palette of 1.07 billion individual hues, which is a lot more than the 16.7 million colors available with 8-bit displays. We use a Quantum-dot IPS panel that covers 97% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. DCI-P3 is used in cinema-grade hardware and offers a wider color space that is 26% larger than the sRGB gamut covered by typical monitors.

The PG27UQ's capabilities are well validated. It boasts DisplayHDR 1000 certification, which means it meets VESA’s most stringent HDR requirements, including allowing the full 1000 nits of brightness to flash across the entire screen to make in-game effects really pop. It also checks all the boxes for UltraHD Premium certification, which requires a minimum of 91% coverage of the DCI P3 color space, 1000 nits of brightness, 4K, and 10-bit color depth.

Understanding HDR vs 144Hz

HDR is a very particular mistress, so connection type is key. HDMI is only capable of HDR at 60Hz, which is great for watching movies and videos, but more bandwidth is required for the higher refresh rates you want for gaming. The included DisplayPort 1.4 interface has 80% more bandwidth: 8.1GB per lane or 32.4GB/sec total. The digital signal that passes over this connection is compressed, and the method of compression can dedicate more bandwidth for color signal information or more for luma information in SDR or HDR modes. DisplayPort 1.4 has enough bandwidth to run the full RGB 4:4:4 format at the native resolution, so your eyes see more accurate and consistent color. However, bandwidth requirements increase with the refresh rate, and DP 1.4 can only maintain 4:4:4 up to 98Hz.

These bandwidth restrictions are just the nature of current interface technology, but the PG27UQ shows amazing versatility in spite of them. I was able to surpass the 98Hz blockade using the Overclocking feature found in the OSD. This shifts the compression scheme to YCbCr 4:2:2 with 10-bit color to support up to 144Hz, or you can go with 4:4:4 and 8-bit color to reach up to 120Hz. Either means conceding a bit of color accuracy compared to 10-bit RGB 4:4:4 at 98Hz, but overclocking provides a more seamless gaming experience by capitalizing on compression to make the most of the bandwidth available. The choice is yours: more frames with a higher refresh rate, or richer colors at a slightly slower pace.

NVIDIA G-Sync meets HDR

NVIDIA’s G-Sync variable-refresh-rate technology is indispensable for maintaining clean motion, especially in demanding 4K games, and the latest G-Sync HDR revision adds support for high dynamic range. G-Sync HDR works to keep the refresh rate of the PG27UQ synchronized with the frame rate of the GPU, which helps eliminate screen tearing and reduce stuttering. The result is smooth, blemish-free motion in games.

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G-Sync HDR requires an entirely new module, which can run a little warm, so we included active cooling that allows the module to operate at peak performance unimpeded. The cooling is virtually silent, without noticeable humming from the fan. It also isn’t obstructed by VESA mounts, like on some other monitors in this class.

Now entering high-speed UHD country

You need a monster rig to churn out 144 FPS in brilliant 4K. Fortunately, we have a PC powered by dual ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPUs in SLI and an Intel 8th Gen Core i7-8700K Coffee Lake processor. We began by testing visuals and performance in 4K gaming up to 144Hz, which requires enabling overclocking on the PG27UQ. There's a noticeable muting of colors compared to the full experience, but the trade-off is more seamless motion in games.

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The UHD resolution adds pixels and creates more detail in still and moving images. It also makes the monitor feel larger than its 27” panel size. This is most obvious in Overwatch, which ran consistently at 144 FPS. Every bit of added detail allowed me to see more clearly, like being able to make out individual strands of grass on Bastion’s alt-skin, as well as details in the spent shells littering the ground around him as he fired that massive Gatling gun. It also allowed me to attack with more confidence. For instance, cracks in shields wielded by Brigette and Reinhardt are more pronounced and an obvious visual cue that the barriers are close to breaking, which is clutch in the heat of battle.

The muted colors are less apparent in darker environments like those in Quake Champions. This fast-paced FPS also benefits from the buttery smooth 144Hz refresh rate, and maintaining 144 FPS is no problem for our PC. Shooters of this speed are intense, and a refresh rate that can match triple-digit frame rates sweetens the pot with immersive, lifelike motion. The boosted resolution highlights minor details that pull you further into the action, which is especially important in games like Quake Champions, which isn't as graphically detailed as other titles.

I also experienced Fortnite in glorious 4K. The cartoon textures interfere with immersion for some people, but Ultra HD adds details to those textures to help draw you into the world. Coupled with the monitor's 144Hz refresh rate, you get more believable encounters that pull you right into the game. The two gel perfectly for me when sniping. The high refresh rate smooths out the transitions when scoping, and the 4K resolution provides increased detail that allows for more precise long range kills.

A whole new world

If your most frequented games support HDR, then the worlds you know so well will be draped in a rich and newly detailed coat of paint. We disabled overclocking to take advantage of the most vivid experience available for some of our favorite titles.

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Destiny 2 is an outstanding example of HDR, and our system kept the game running at a steady 66 FPS to produce a fluid experience. It was easy to see the difference in the dynamic range. The game’s shadows are already amazing, but HDR enhances them with a chilling level of depth. I experienced this first hand while speeding on my Sparrow hoverbike into seemingly pitch dark caves and otherwise dimly lit areas. The exceptional in-game lighting also gets a boost from HDR. The energy thruster trail given off by some Sparrow engines shines brighter with noticeably more color variation within the glow. This carries over to when the light bounces off various objects and different types of material. It amplifies reflected light, so objects nearer to the light source are illuminated with more realism. Character super abilities crackle with more obvious detail to their particle effects, and when enemies disintegrate upon death, it's satisfyingly violent. The added richness to the colors and boosted contrast range creates a more realistic and believable atmosphere throughout the game.

Forza 7, on the other hand, is a bit different. It ran at a consistent 98 FPS with the V-sync Unlocked setting, and it was breathtaking to witness this one running at 4K, even if the HDR enhancements are less obvious than in Destiny 2. The lighting and shadows are not as advanced, but we did notice that detail variations from track to track seemed more apparent than when playing in SDR. Richer colors are easier to see than the boost in contrast. The cars look more vibrant, and scenery appears more detailed in places. This is most notable in Dubai’s arid dunes and rocky areas. When rounding some of the corners on the Mugello Circuit, away from the stands, you see more verdant green backdrops. It’s also easier to differentiate between various textures, like wood, metal, and cloth.

Not all HDR-supported titles are created equal, and the differences are a lot more apparent in some game than others. I found Final Fantasy XV to be a great candidate for getting the most out of the PG27UQ's HDR support. This massive RPG can be played in classic, turn-based combat style. The slower pace lends itself to gameplay below 60 FPS, and I averaged 48-52 FPS during my testing. I have yet to complete this sprawling game, but so far I've seen a lot of vibrant, iridescent landscapes with fantasy-style cathedrals, industrial sci-fi structures, and steampunk-inspired buildings. HDR brings more depth to the scenery, and it adds weight to the effects to give powers and attacks more visual punch. Even simple attacks like Noctis’ teleporting Warp-Strike feel stronger and pop off with more flare because the lighting effects are sharper and more vivid. Cut-scenes are more dramatic, too, with richer, more believable colors and deeper blacks, which creates a foreboding atmosphere that adds to the experience.

HDR maxing and relaxing

Gaming dominated our test time, but we just had to check out a few 4K UHD movies and videos in beautiful HDR. The PG27UQ opens up a new section of HDR content on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. In 4K HDR, Altered Carbon, Netflix’s biggest budget original title to date, shines like the massive, multi-million dollar endeavor that it is. Fight scenes feel more visceral, which is partly due to the cinematography. However, in these close-up shots, HDR adds depth to imperfections like scars and cuts. The crisp UHD resolution means action scenes feature new exhilarating details that I'd never seen before, and you can even see pores on characters' skin. The scene in which Takeshi makes his first visit to Bancroft's estate is an aerial shot, and HDR shows off all of the vivid colors in the courtyard. Scenes depicting the Day of the Dead celebration feature a sea of black-clad characters set against a moody nighttime backdrop, but it still manages to be extremely colorful. My first viewing was on an SDR 1080p television, and all of these details went completely unnoticed.

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We also fired up the Netflix Original movie, Bright. In the memorable scene where Will Smith dispatches a pesky fairy with a kitchen broom, I noticed details and markings on the fairy’s face and body that I had not seen when I watched on my TV. I had also missed the purplish-crimson wash of blood splatter on the pavement when he smacked the fairy dead. Scenes of the bustling city and elf aristocracy stood out as well. HDR helps to highlight the point of opulence by giving the elves' garbs and their jewelry more vibrancy when contrasted with the drab, downtrodden orc slums.

Hardworking and gorgeous

Beyond its laudable features and gaming prowess, the ROG Swift PG27UQ is also an alluring centerpiece. The three-pronged metallic stand has a low profile with sleek lines and copper accents. A projected desk logo with swappable blank covers allows to you to splash your brand across your desk. We've also got a couple of lighting effects that are brand new for the PG27UQ. The large logo on the back of the display lights up and features full Aura Sync support, so you can customize the colors and coordinate lighting across your entire system. You can also digitally brand your gaming area with a new projected logo that shines out from the back of the display and onto the wall behind. You can even adjust the height at which it appears with a handy dial found just below the light source.

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  ROG Swift PG27UQ
Panel In-Plane Switching Full UHD (3840 x 2160)
Refresh rate G-Sync HDR up to 144Hz
Response time 4 ms (GTG)
Colors 1.07 billion (10-bit with dithering), 97% (DCI-P3), 99% (Adobe RGB)
Brightness  600 cd/m² (SDR) / 1000 cd/m² (Peak)
Contrast 1000:1 (SDR) / 50000 :1 (HDR)
Backlight Dynamically Local Dimming with 384 Zones
Viewing angles 178°(H) /178°(V)
Ports 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0 (Type-A), 1 x USB 3.0 (Type-B)
Price $1,999 USD / $2,599.99 CAD
Availability (USA) Best BuyNewegg, Micro Center, Velocity MicroB&H 
Availability (Canada) Memory ExpressCanada Computers

The ROG Swift PG27UQ offers amazing versatility for gamers and professionals alike. With stunning 4K visuals, an ultra-high refresh rate, and beautiful HDR, this is the granddaddy of gaming monitors. Content creators will love the rich and accurate color reproduction, and the boosted brightness and contrast range for image and video editing. The ROG Swift PG27UQ is available now for $1,999 USD and $2,599.99 CAD. Check the listings above for U.S. and Canadian retailers carrying the PG27UQ near you. If you're outside of North America, check with your local ROG representative for international pricing and availability.

Articles: Hands On Monitors
Article Tags: Hands On
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